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The Rock-itt : April 2012
"This monument is dedicated to all the ani- mals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time." A second, smaller inscription simply reads: "They had no choice." Poignant I’m sure you’ll agree but in truth that statement could also surely be applied to most of the people killed in war. Animals are still widely used in the services; I think we probably have fewer carrier pi- geon these days though! More than 100,000 pigeons served Britain in the First World War and 200,000 in World War II. They performed heroically and saved thou- sands of lives by carrying vital messages, sometimes over long distances, when other methods of communication were impossi- ble. Flying at the rate of a mile a minute from the front line, behind enemy lines or from ships or aeroplanes, these gallant birds would struggle on through all weath- ers, even when severely wounded and ex- hausted, in order to carry their vital messag- es home. Dogs have always been useful in conflict, many times merely as mascots or pets add- ing some normality to a bizarre situation. The Dogs’ natural intelligence and devotion have been valued and exploited by forces in conflicts throughout history. Among their many duties, these faithful animals ran messages, laid telegraph wires, detected mines, dug out bomb victims and acted as guard or patrol dogs in fact in many places they still do. In the UK animals can be awarded the ‘The Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals Dickin Medal’ - recognised as the animals' Victoria Cross it was named after Maria Dickin, the founder of the PDSA. Between 1943 and 1949, 54 animals received the medal, in- cluding 32 pigeons, 18 dogs and 3 horses. Here are a few of the recipients; Simon, the ship's cat aboard HMS Amethyst during the Yangtze Incident of 1949, was awarded a posthumous PDSA Dickin Medal for his devotion to duty despite suffering terrible injuries when the British warship was shelled by the Chinese Communist forc- es. During the 101 days HMS Amethyst was held captive on the Yangtze River, Simon devoted his time to catching the rats that threatened the crew's dwindling rations. GI Joe, Pigeon - USA43SC6390, was award- ed the PDSA Dickin medal in August 1946. The citation reads: “This bird is credited with making the most outstanding flight by a USA Army Pigeon in World War II. Making the 20 mile flight from British 10th Army HQ, in the same number of minutes, it brought a message which arrived just in time to save the lives of at least 100 Allied soldiers from being bombed by their own planes.” Rob, a Collie (War Dog No. 471/332 Special Air Service) was awarded the PDSA Dickin medal on 22nd January 1945. Citation: “Took part in landings during North African Campaign with an Infantry unit and later served with a Special Air Unit in Italy as pa- trol and guard on small detachments lying- up in enemy territory. His presence with these parties saved many of them from dis- covery and subsequent capture or destruc- tion. Rob made over 20 parachute de- scents.” Only a dying horse! Pull off the gear, and slip the needless bit from frothing jaws. Drag it aside there, leave the roadw ay clear- The battery thunders on with scarce a pause. Prone by the shell-swept highway there it lies with quivering limbs, as fast the life tide fails dark films are closing o’er the faithful eyes that mutely plead for aid where none avails. Onward the battery roll but one there speeds, heedless of comrade’s voice or bursting shell, back to the wounded friend who lonely bleeds, beside the stony highway where it fell. Only a dying horse! He swiftly kneels lifts the limp head and hears the shivering sigh kisses his friend, while down his cheek there steals sweet Pity’s tear, goodbye old man, goodbye. No honours wait him, medal, badge or star though scarce could war a kindlier a deed unfold. He bears within his breast more precious far beyond the gift of kings, a heart of gold Henry Chappell Of the more bizarre animals used in war stories of mine detecting dolphins are fairly regular and they are apparently still used by the Americans. Most bizarre however is surely the use of glow worms to read maps in the First World War! Thanks then to our animal heroes for their contribution in times of angst we recognise them with much gratitude.